We've just got back from our fourteen night cruise onboard Ventura. Having read some of the previous reviews on here and elsewhere we weren't really sure what to expect. What follows is an account of what we experienced. ... Read More
We've just got back from our fourteen night cruise onboard Ventura. Having read some of the previous reviews on here and elsewhere we weren't really sure what to expect. What follows is an account of what we experienced. Hopefully it will be fairly logical and reasonably free from waffle although I make no guarantees!
We booked through P&O direct, last September. We booked early so that we could choose our cabin and make sure that it was in the right location (midships, low down). However, as the date of our departure came nearer it was clear that P&O were having trouble selling the remaining cabins as they were reducing the cost of our cabin grade, quite substantially. Obviously, P&O can charge what they like for their cruises and I fully accept that if they had suddenly increased the cost of our cabin grade, I'd have been pretty miffed if they came to us asking us to pay more. However, in the spirit of it costing nothing to ask I rang them to see if they'd be willing to offer us some OBC in recognition that we had paid more than someone who was booking that day. They flatly refused and even refused to offer us a free meal in Sindhu or The Epicurean. Like I have already said, I didn't really expect much and accept that they are free to charge what they want. However, it would be hard to deny that this did not leave a nasty taste in my mouth and did not give me, as a first-time P&O customer, the best of first impressions.
We took the coach included in our Early Saver fare and departed Liverpool at 0715 on the 11th. We had a further pick up at a motorway service station about forty minutes away and then had a 45 minute break at Warwick Services. We arrived at Ocean Terminal at around 1315. The embarkation process was very efficient and although the terminal was very busy indeed it was a smooth, easy experience. Upon entering, you are given a coloured card with a letter on it (we were blue M). You then took a seat from one of the many available and waited for your colour and letter to be called. You then booked in and went on to security. From there, it was onto the gangway and then the ship. There were crew members on hand to let you know if your cabin was ready and to point you in vaguely the right direction. It's very much worth noting that P&O are extremely tolerant of you taking alcohol on board, as long as it is consumed in your cabin. We took a litre of Bacardi, a litre of gin and two bottles of red wine on and not even a single eyelid was batted.
We, as we always do, had booked an inside cabin. We feel that, as we spend so little time in the cabin, it's not worth spending the difference. We'd rather spend that money on booze and meals in the speciality restaurants! We had E316 on Deck 8, Ecuador Deck, about halfway between the midship and the forward elevators. A great location as we were only a short way from the night-time action on Decks 6&7 and a quick elevator ride away from the pool and deck bars on Deck 15. We'd noticed from the deckplans that E316 was directly above The Glasshouse but we didn't hear any noise whatsoever. The cabin was perfectly acceptable, with everything you would need. Obviously, an inside cabin is never going to be huge but there was plenty enough space for the both of us. It's worth your while taking coat hangers though, as P&O don't provide many. Our cabin steward, Rocky, was lovely and very accommodating. One request brought us a fresh bucket of ice at around 1pm each day.
We had opted for Freedom Dining (ie we could turn up for dinner at anytime between 1830 and 2130) and were allocated Saffron dining room. Our first dinner did not leave a great impression as the waiters, one in particular, were rather surly and grumpy. However, we were seated in their area again a couple of nights later and they were totally different. Everyone's entitled to an off-day, I guess. The food was of a reasonable standard, with plenty of variety. Most dishes were well-cooked and tasty but some were very much of a 'mass-catering' standard. Now, I know that, by definition, a cruise ship is mass-catering, but in my opinion the food on a cruise should be above that standard. The meals come ready-plated, ie with vegetables already on and there was very little variety in what was served. If you like carrots, green beans and peas you'll have a ball. I have copies of all the menus served onboard during our cruise and if anybody would like to see them, please send me a PM and I'll attempt to scan them in and email them to you.
We had breakfast in the main dining rooms on all mornings except one when we didn't wake up until 0945. One of the hazards of having an inside cabin - we were very glad that it was just a sea day! The daily specials were nice but the portions were tiny. The P&O Cruises Breakfast is epic, including liver, black pudding and white pudding. You are more than welcome to mix-and-match your own cooked breakfast from what's on offer but you won't always get what you ask for as the waiters don't seem to listen properly. No biggie, as it leant an air of mystery to proceedings!
We only used one of the 'Speciality Dining' restaurants - Sindhu. If you like Asian food then this is a must. It was, simply, divine. Easily the best Indian food I have ever eaten, and I've eaten a lot. Well worth the £15 per person cover charge.
The Waterside Buffet was only used once, when we missed the MDR breakfast. Oh, and on a couple of occasions when we got an attack of the nibbles on the way to bed!
The pizza and burgers available at the Poolside Grill are very tasty indeed and make a lovely lunch if you're on deck sunbathing.
Superb. Just fabulous. The ship's theatre company, Headliners, were amazing. A group of 13 very, very talented individuals. They put on six very good production shows with great sets and costumes. Unfortunately, this particular group came to the end of their contracts on this cruise so there will be an entirely different company on board by now. Perhaps the only criticism would be that all of the soundtracks for the production shows were pre-recorded. I'm at a loss to work out why this would be, when you have a very talented eight-piece orchestra onboard who seemed almost criminally under-used.
The visiting artistes were of a uniformly excellent standard, although mostly singers. There were two comedians, Tony Wallace and Dave Kristian who were very funny indeed, there was a comedy magician, Mandy Muden, who was very good and several singers the pick of whom was Steve V King who has spent time touring with The Drifters. He was excellent.
I had read a lot of negative comments regarding the Cruise Director (or Entertainment Manager as P&O now refer to the position) before the cruise and, whilst I found Hughie Taylor to be very personable and witty, he was not seen anywhere near enough. The only time I saw him outside of the theatre was when we were dining in Sindhu - he was in there with his family. I also thought that it was very remiss of P&O not to have him say 'goodbye' to the passengers on the last night. There was none of the usual run-down of how much food we'd munched through, no 'thanks for sailing with us' - nothing. Very bad form, in my book.
The ship's bands were great, very talented musicians all. The Electrix were a five piece band who played anything and everything and also backed some of the visiting artistes. Serious Sounds were a four-piece band who played soul, motown and disco. They were fronted by one of the quietest, most self-effacing lead singers I have ever seen but my word, what a voice! Megan & Joe were a trio who performed mostly in Metropolis, up on Deck 18. And the ship's Orchestra were also very good indeed who, as I have said before, were utterly under-used although they did put on a very good Glenn Miller show.
If you wanted to watch one of the shows, either in the Arena Theatre or in the two show bars (The Tamarind Club or Havana - a Cuban-themed bar, ironic really as Cuba don't allow cruise ships to dock) then you had to be in at least thirty minutes before each performance to be sure of getting a seat.
If you like quizzes and trivia then Ventura is the ship for you. However, there were no game shows such as 'Mr & Mrs' or 'Liars Club'.
PORTS OF CALL
I'll try to deal with these in order.
We arrived the day after a major carnival and so the area around the dock was filthy. Lots of rubbish in the gutters. It didn't help that it was overcast, raining and gloomy. We really didn't get a good impression of the city. We got utterly lost walking around the hilly, cobbled old quarter and then eventually stumbled across the main squares where we picked up the open-top sightseeing bus (which we'd already booked thinking that it would be good weather). Luckily we got a seat under the front covered area. All in all though, we weren't terribly impressed with the place but that would probably have been totally different had the weather been better.
After looking at the ship's excursions we decided that, to see what we wanted to (Timanfaya National Park and the house of Cesar Manrique, one of Spain's foremost 20th century artisits) we would be better of hiring a car. I'd booked a Vauxhall (well, Opel!) Corsa with satnav online before we departed for a bargain £25.67 for the day. It was the first time that I had ever driven abroad so I was a bit nervous to say the least, but it all panned out in the end. We saw some marvellous sights and experienced some of the tiny little villages that we wouldn't have seen had we taken a ship's excursion.
As the 'old town' was a fair old walk away we decided to again use the open-top sightseeing bus. If you've never been somewhere before then they really are a great way to get a feel of a place. Our favourite tactic is to do the full circuit, noting places that we might want to investigate 'next time around'. We had a good rummage around the old quarter and then headed to a restaurant for a beer and a paella in the sunshine.
We docked in Santa Cruz De Tenerife, in the north of the island and had a good wander around. It's a charming little city, the first of our ports of call that I felt I could spend a week in. We walked up to the Cathedral and then on to the lovely market. After a potter about, trying to guess what the various dead things were we wombled back in search of lunch. I must have been influenced by what I saw in the market as I had some very delicious rabbit and a lovely, ice-cold beer. We then crossed the road to have a couple of wonderful-tasting Mojitos in a bar set around a huge lake right on the front. Very picturesque and civilised, especially as the sun was beating down. I took off my shoes and sat with my feet dangling in the cool water. Lovely. Until later in the day when I discovered that I had burnt the tops of my feet really very badly. Over the next few days, both feet blistered and were very, very painful. So much so that my wife had to borrow a wheelchair from Passenger Services (or the very dull 'Reception' as they now call it) to get me about. This cast a pall over the rest of the holiday so please, please make sure that you use sunscreen. I, foolishly, didn't and I paid for it.
This is a small town, with some charming buildings and streets. In truth, there is not a huge amount to do other than womble so a ship's excursion may be a better idea.
We really liked Funchal. It's a very green, pretty city. We had intended to take the cable car up to the Monte and the Botanical Gardens but my burnt feet, and my wife's cowardice where cable cars are concerned, meant that we reverted to our old faithful, the open-top sightseeing bus. This was a round trip of an hour and a half, taking us to the nearby fishing village of Camara de Lobos (a thoroughly charming place) for a very reasonable 11 Euros each. We then went in search of some Madeira wine to take home and some lunch. Another place where I could spend a week.
Another small city, and another very quaint and beautiful place but again there is not a huge amount to see. What there was was very interesting though and we were visiting on a festival day so were treated to a couple of marching bands which was nice.
Ventura herself was in very good condition throughout. No worn carpets or upholsteries, no rust to be seen anywhere. On every port day, and most sea days, there were people painting the hull or sanding a varnishing deck rails.
There were warnings in the daily Horizon (the ship's newspaper) that the reservation of sunbeds on deck is not allowed. However, this did not seem to be policed and there were plenty of sunbeds to be seen draped with towels for hours on end. Similarly, there were frequent announcements that the reservation of seats in the theatre and other bars was not allowed. However, people still did which did not help other people to find seats.
The weather on the cruise was not great with only one of the six days enjoying unbroken blue skies all days. Of course, this is not P&O's fault! But it did expose Ventura's failings in accommodating over 3,000 passengers as everybody wanted to be inside, leading to some very cramped conditions.
We are very lucky to be able to afford to cruise and always go on every cruise in a positive frame of mind. However, we felt that our cruise on Ventura wasn't as good or as enjoyable as our two previous cruises on the Grand Princess. That's not to say that we didn't enjoy ourselves, or that we didn't have a relaxing holiday. However, I don't think that we'd be in a rush to book with P&O again. Read Less